On a spring evening on May 22rd, 1844, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad announced that He was the bearer of a Divine Revelation whose aim was to prepare the world for “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest,” a Messenger of God known as Baha’u’llah. Baha’is refer to Siyyid Ali-Muhammad by His title, the Bab, which is Arabic for “the Gate,” and that eventful evening is celebrated every year by Baha’is around the world.
Every year Baha’is around the world celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, on the 8th of Azamat according to the Badi calendar. In honour of that joyous holy day, let’s take a look at the Bayan, a priceless gift the Bab bequeathed to mankind.
What is commonly referred to as ‘the Bayan’ are in fact two distinct and separate texts: the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan. The word ‘bayan’ means ‘exposition’ or ‘utterance’ in Arabic, and there are also instances in the Writings where it refers to the entirety of the Bab’s revelation. 1
The Persian Bayan is the Mother Book of the Babi Dispensation and it consists of nine sections, each containing 19 subsections – with the exception of the final section which only has 10 subsections and is therefore considered purposefully incomplete 2 – I say purposefully because we know from the events surrounding the Bab’s martyrdom that no earthly power could silence Him until He had said everything He wished to say. 3The Book of Certitude (The Kitab-i-Iqan) is the completion of the Persian Bayan and its revelation fulfilled the Bab’s prophecy that Him Whom God will make manifest, namely Baha’u’llah, would complete the Bab’s Mother Book. 4
The Arabic Bayan is a condensed form of the Persian Bayan however it is a complete text in the numerical sense as there are no missing subsections. Both the Persian and the Arabic Bayans were revealed during the same time period in the prison of Maku, and it is possible that their final verses were written in the fortress of Chiriq.
The Persian Bayan is a book of laws, teachings and traditions. Shoghi Effendi describes the text thus:
[…] wholly safeguarded from the interpolation and corruption which has been the fate of so many of the Bab’s lesser works, this Book, of about eight thousand verses, occupying a pivotal position in Babi literature, should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations.
The Bab, Himself, remarked:
A thousand perusals of the Bayan […] cannot equal the perusal of a single verse to be revealed by ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest.’… Today the Bayan is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest’ its ultimate perfection will become apparent….
Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah. p.101-2
I was intrigued to learn that the title Baha’u’llah, the appellation we use primarily today when referring to Mirza Husayn Ali, the Prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith, was originally recorded in the Persian Bayan. 5
Also contained in the Persian Bayan is the dawn of the New World Order, which we are all striving daily to build. Shoghi Effendi writes:
[…] in the third Vahid of this Book there occurs a passage which, alike in its explicit reference to the name of the Promised One, and in its anticipation of the Order which, in a later age, was to be identified with His Revelation, deserves to rank as one of the most significant statements recorded in any of the Bab’s writings. ‘Well is it with him,’ is His prophetic announcement, ‘who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Baha’u’llah, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayan.’ It is with that self-same Order that the Founder of the promised Revelation, twenty years later—incorporating that same term in His Kitab-i-Aqdas—identified the System envisaged in that Book, affirming that ‘this most great Order’ had deranged the world’s equilibrium, and revolutionized mankind’s ordered life.
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By. p.26-7
With every devotional gathering, children’s class, junior youth spiritual empowerment program, and every study circle, we are striving to establish what the Bab set forth in His Mother Book. Is it delightful to consider how closely linked we are to the words of the Bayan.
If you are looking for a study guide to the sacred texts of the Bab, I heartily recommend Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Bab.
An unauthorized translation of the entire Persian Bayan exists in Moojan Momen’s book Selections from the Writings of E. G. Browne on the Babi and Baha’i Religions. Brown was an English scholar who was criticized by his contemporaries for his study of what seemed to be obscure eastern religions. The world owes a debt of gratitude to him for his research – particularly for his account of his meeting with Baha’u’llah — and while his translation of the Bayan is not authoritative it may prove useful in your studies.
A copy of the Persian Bayan written in the hand of one of the Bab’s amanuensis’ is preserved in the International Archives Building at the World Centre and pilgrims have the priceless blessing of being able to see it in person.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.